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Good girls and bad boys

It was the 'whuh?' heard around the world; Geri Halliwell -- no stranger to meeting Mr Wrongs -- is said to be enjoying a romance with the ultimate bad lad, Russell Brand.

Ginger Spice has seemingly found that performing at the Olympics closing ceremony has its fringe benefits, as she and Brand hit if off there. Russell even proclaimed after the ceremony: "It's like going back to 1996. I've got a massive crush on Geri Halliwell, so everything in the world was as it should be."

According to reports, Brand promptly broke off his fledgling romance with Isabella Brewster -- one of five alleged girlfriends he's had since splitting with wife Katy Perry eight months ago -- to pursue the fling. Not even Russ's chequered past, including drug and sex-addiction battles, seemed to be dampening this random romance.

But then, far from being a deterrent, the slightly damaged or toxic boy can be pure catnip for some women.


Last year, Georgia Salpa briefly played with fire as she enjoyed a fling with Calum Best. Predictably, the pair quickly hit road bumps: Their OK! magazine lovefest was barely out of the printers before it was alleged that Calum was still in text-touch with Italian ex-girlfriend Simona Sofia. Salpa split after Calum was spotted leaving a London nightclub with ex-girlfriend Donna Air.

Calum isn't the only lothario who has proved irresistible to women. Though he prides himself on his reformed character and professes to focus on fatherhood these days, even Colin Farrell has been hugely alluring to lovelorn women in the past. Last year, novelist Emma Forrest laid bare her relationship with Castleknock charmer Colin in her memoir Your Voice In My Head. One passage notes how her 'Gypsy Husband' -- believed to be Farrell -- would bombard her with text messages. Forrest also recalled her break-up with GH; when he arrived to her house, the 'Gypsy Husband' was shaking and pale, crying his eyes out on her lap telling her he needed space. Within months, a picture of Farrell and his Ondine co-star Alicja Bachleda-Curus appeared online. In the photograph, the two were seemingly an item, with Alicja in her second trimester of pregnancy.

And, while Rihanna's flirtation with Farrell in 2010 came to nothing, the singer has found herself wrapped up in an ongoing drama with her ex, Chris Brown. In 2009, their relationship ended after the pair were involved in a vicious argument. Leaked police reports revealed that Chris brutally attacked his girlfriend, leaving Rihanna with a split lip, cut face, black eyes and bite marks.


Yet only last week, Rihanna took to Oprah Winfrey's couch to tell the world that she was still hopelessly in love with Brown: "I truly love him," she said. "He's the love of my life. That's not anything we're going to try and change ... it's not something you can shut off. We built a trust again and that's it."

And so to the burning question: why do we always fall for the toxic boys? Why does Mr Nice often finish last, while Mr Wrong gets to wreak emotional havoc wherever he goes?

This isn't just confined to celebrity circles; I've lost count of the number of times friends of mine have scratched their heads over the questionable behaviour of their potential paramours. Yet it's like they're addicted to the drama; the exquisite pain of being treated badly.

We seem to mistake this ungentlemanly behaviour for passion. To our shame, we're grateful for the crumbs of attention. Only recently, bruised of ego, I became fixated with one particular bad lad. Waiting in the wings was a perfect gentleman only too willing to be everything one would want in a partner. And yet there I was, dodging his phonecalls and throwing my proverbial eggs into a basket that I knew full well would get stomped on.

According to psychotherapist and relationship counsellor Fergal Brady (www.mindandbodyworks.ie), the reasons are numerous. First and foremost, we think of ourselves as the exception to the rule; the one that can finally break their man's habit of a lifetime.

"There is an allure in the 'bad object'," he reasons. "Line 10 men up against a wall and most women will invariably pick the bastard. Sometimes she wants to prove to herself that she can survive a relationship like that. There's a competitive element between other women, 'I can tame him and love him like no one else can'."

Adding insult to injury, some of us are hard-wired to 'rescue' men: "There's something in that 'helpless alpha male'," concedes Fergal.

"Some women find the guy who can't help himself attractive. It says something about your status if you can survive a relationship with a man like that."

Oftentimes, these relationships happen despite a chorus of boos from well-meaning friends on the sidelines.

"In the woman's mind there is logic to this relationship," says Fergal. "Everyone else is one step removed and, therefore, doesn't understand the 'heartbeat' of the relationship."

Yet, according to Lisa O'Hara from Relationships Ireland, the headrush from a romance with a ladies' man is often too great to resist.


"These guys are so well versed in the art of seduction that they have the patter off," explains Lisa. "It's hard not to fall for it. They know how to pull you in because they've done it a million times before."

According to Fergal, if a man is a repeat offender, it rarely reflects on the relationship he is in.

"Often it's a personality thing," he concludes. "There's a sense of narcissism and they need to know that they can still seduce or have a woman respond to them. Underneath this confidence, often you will find insecurity."

For now, the jury is out on Geri and Russ's odds of lasting romance, but that's not to say that other celebrities haven't been tamed. Warren Beatty, Michael Douglas and Rod Stewart-- former ladies' men, one and all -- have been lured into domestic stability. Can a leopard really change his spots?

"Who's to say that a guy can't become Mr Stable under the right circumstances and with the right girl?" adds Lisa.

"Though it's probably best not to be under the illusion that that girl is you."